16 Ugandan LGBT activists given forced anal exams: rights group

A Ugandan wearing a mask with a rainbow sticker takes part in the Gay Pride parade in Entebbe. (Isaac Kasamani, AFP)
A Ugandan wearing a mask with a rainbow sticker takes part in the Gay Pride parade in Entebbe. (Isaac Kasamani, AFP)

Sixteen Ugandan LGBT activists were subjected to forced anal examinations after being arrested, the country's leading gay rights organisation said Thursday.

The 16 men were taken into police custody late Monday to protect them from a homophobic mob which had surrounded the house where they were staying, but were then arrested and charged under a colonial-era anti-gay law.

"Last night (Wednesday) the police subjected them to forced anal exams," the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) Frank Mugisha, told AFP.

Mugisha described the practice as "degrading and inhumane".

Police spokesman Patrick Onyango told AFP by WhatsApp that "following new developments based on the medical examination report it was established that the suspects were involved in sexual acts punishable under the penal code."

Another police spokesman, Fred Enanga, said the men - members of an LGBT activist group called Let's Walk Together - were "released on police bond" on Thursday evening.

There have been no prosecutions for consensual same sex acts in Uganda in recent years, where acts deemed "against the order of nature" can lead to life imprisonment.

According to Human Rights Watch forced anal examinations are a long-discredited technique which aim to determine whether someone has engaged in anal intercourse in order to seek evidence for prosecution.

According to SMUG, attacks against LGBT people have soared in recent weeks since reported comments by Ugandan Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo that he wanted to see the return of legislation thrown out by the courts on procedural grounds in 2014 that would tighten already strict anti-gay legislation.

The government has since clarified it has no intention to introduce new laws.

"I strongly believe that the government of Uganda is not behind any anti-gay law coming up and I also think that they don't want the pressure to continue," SMUG's Mugisha said.

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